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Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Israel, Hamas agree to restore calm in Gaza: Hamas

AFP , Saturday 21 Jul 2018
Gaza
A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP PHOTO)
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Hamas said on Saturday it had agreed a truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip, a day after clashes killed an Israeli soldier and four Palestinians along the volatile border.

The Israeli occupying military declined to comment on the reported ceasefire. Israel's government and army rarely acknowledge ceasefires with Hamas, but a military spokeswoman said civilian life should return to normal in areas next to Gaza.

In what appeared to be an isolated incident, with no reports of casualties, an Israeli tank fired on a Hamas post in Gaza after Palestinian suspects breached the border fence and entered Israeli territory before retreating back into Gaza, the occupying military said. There were no other reports of unrest in the area.

On Friday, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier and the Israeli military launched dozens of strikes that killed four Palestinians, including three Hamas fighters. At least 120 Gazans were wounded.

"With Egyptian and United Nations efforts it has been agreed to return to the era of calm between (Israel) and Palestinian factions," said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza.

The soldier was the first member of Israel's occupation army to be killed on the Gaza front since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, a military spokesman said.

During the flare-up which lasted several hours, the Israeli military said its jets and tanks hit 68 Hamas targets, and destroyed "buildings and infrastructures and revoked significant military and command and control capabilities."

Egyptian security officials and a diplomat from another unnamed state held contacts with Hamas and Israel in an effort to restore calm and prevent further deterioration, a Palestinian official told Reuters.

If confirmed, it would be the third ceasefire between Israel Islamist Hamas to be brokered by Egypt this year and the second truce to be agreed this week after a day-long flare up last Saturday.

Weekly clashes at the Israel-Gaza border have kept tensions high for months. At least 149 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces during protests at the frontier held every week since March.

Protest organizers say they are demanding the right to return to lands lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its foundation and for an Israeli blockade to ease.

The surge in violence comes as Palestinian hopes for an independent state have dwindled and peace talks remain stalled. Gaza, home to 2 million people, most of whom depend on foreign aid, has been under Israeli economic sanctions for 12 years.

Palestinians in Gaza have for months been demonstrating against Israel's decade-long blockade of the territory and in support of their right to return to lands they fled or were driven from during the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

In the wake of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, which started on 30 March, Gaza’s already overstretched health sector has been struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties.

At least 149 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli occupation forces during the protests near the border with Israel.

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza which it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas.

The blockade is worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza, which human rights advocates have described as collective punishment of the Palestinians living in the strip.

The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, caused by over 10 years of Israeli blockade, alongside an internal Palestinian divide, which worsened in 2017, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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